Vladimir Putin May Have Gotten His Political Cunning From His Cook Grandfather
Ivanovich cooked for both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and lived on after their deaths — a not so easy feat, Katusa says. “[Putin’s grandfather] managed to outlive the tyrants he fed so well,” writes Katusa in The Colder War. “It required sensitive political instincts and nimble balancing… He passed what he learned to a grandson eager to hear such things.” Kremlin
Some People Think That Putin Was Adopted — And That He Wants To Keep It A Secret
According to proponents of this theory, Putin’s biological mother is an 89-year-old named Vera Putina, who had Putin out of wedlock and had to give him up when she married.
Putina says that Putin’s foster parents had his birth certificates changed so he could legally repeat a grade and learn Russian. Those who believe her say that Putin has cast this truth under the rug in order to avoid being seen as “an illegitimate child who had grown up in Georgia,” which has historically been a thorn in Russia’s side. Laski Diffusion
He Was A Bully As A Child
In The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, one of Putin’s childhood friends recalls that they grew up in “a mean, hungry, impoverished place that bred mean, hungry, ferocious children.”EPA/Corbis
According to Putin, Sports Saved His Life
Putin would go on to travel around the country as a judo champion, and later remarked that “If I hadn’t taken up sport, who knows what would have happened. It was sport that took me off the street.”ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images
His Parents Nearly Died In The Siege Of Leningrad
He Was 25 Years Old By The Time He Had His Own Bedroom
During the Brezhnev era (1964-1982), Putin’s family — like many others at the time — would see a gradual improvement in their quality of life, such that they could move into a two-room apartment. Putin, then 25 and already working for the KGB for two years at the time, took the smaller room — the first time he ever had a room of his own.Imgur
Spy Thrillers Helped Shape Putin’s Approach To Politics
As Putin would later say, films and TV shows such as Sword and Shield and Seventeen Moments of Spring underscored the idea that “one man’s effort could achieve what whole armies could not.”
Sakwa goes on to say that these thrillers’ themes — patriotic but not overly ideological — mirror Putin’s own approach to politics:
“The struggle was to defend the Soviet motherland against its various enemies, not to defend the communist regime against its ideological opponents. This relatively non-ideological patriotism shaped Putin’s personality and later took him into a career with the KGB.”YouTube
Putin Says He’s Not A Diplomat — But Does A Scary Good Job On Studying Those With Whom He Meets
That’s not to say that Putin doesn’t engage in the often mind-numbing diplomatic ritual of reading up on any and every person with whom he may interact, however.
In his memoirs, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott recalls an instance where he met with Putin, who proceeded to reference the names of the poets that Talbott had studied decades ago at Yale and Oxford. Talbott later called this an “unnerving but impressive” experience, and one which made clear that Putin listens with “an attentiveness that seemed at least as calculating as it is courteous.”Wikimedia Commons
No One Knows Much About His Daughters — Besides The Fact That They Are Obscenely Wealthy
Katerina’s spouse is the son of a banker close to Putin, and together the couple have corporate holdings worth around $2 billion. Outside of that, they own a $3.7 million seaside villa in France, which they acquired from a family friend.
Putin, however, claims a slightly humbler existence: In 2015, he reported a 2014 income of $119,000 and listed owning two modest apartments, Reuters reported. Other sources dispute such modesty, and allege that he has a personal fortune of $200 billion.YouTube
He Has Been Linked To The Murders Of His Critics
In 2006, journalist and highly-vocal Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned with polonium-210. A 2016 official inquiry into the matter showed that the agents who poisoned Litvinenko were acting on orders that were “probably approved by President Putin.”
Another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, accused Putin of turning Russia into a police state in her book Putin’s Russia. On October 7, 2006, Vladimir Putin’s 54th birthday, contract workers shot Politkovskaja dead outside her home. Her murder — coupled with the date on which it took place — prompted many to look to Putin when attempting to explain who was behind it.
Pictured: Women holding a poster of deceased former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.Alexey SAZONOV/AFP/Getty Images
His “Bromance” With Donald Trump Goes Back To 2007 — And Is Largely One-Sided
In October 2007, several months after Russia was accused of conducting cyber warfare against Estonia, Trump offered TV host Larry King positive remarks on Putin. “Look at Putin — what he’s doing with Russia — I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done — whether you like him or don’t like him — he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.”PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images
He Has Amassed An Array Of Republican Presidential Fans
"I looked the man in the eye,” Bush recounted during a later press conference. “I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."
Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go on to rue Bush’s words, writing in her memoir No Higher Honor that "We were never able to escape the perception that the president had naïvely trusted Putin and then been betrayed."OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images
He Ruined A Ukrainian National Treasure To Make A Political Point
The duo downed a 1775 bottle of Jeres de la Frontera, which Count Mikhail Vorontsov brought to the region during the reign of Catherine the Great. The former prosecutor general of Crimea proceeded to file a lawsuit against Putin for more than $100,000 in damages.DAVID GOLDMAN/AFP/Getty Images
He’s Developed A Cult Of Personality Unseen Since Joseph Stalin
Indeed, in Russia you can find Putin-inspired cologne; Putin iPhone cases, and Putin t-shirts. Perhaps the most dramatic item of them all is a 400-page book called Words That Change the World. The tome is filled with Putin quotes, and the Kremlin sends it to members of the Federal Assembly every new year. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images
One Of His Biggest Heroes Is A Mystic Poet
And according to Solovyov’s biographer, Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, it’s not surprising. Following the Russian Empire’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire, Solovyov said that Russia had a divine mission to transcend East and West and create a “third people,” or the Slavs.Wikimedia Commons
He Doesn’t Seem To Care About Punctuality — So Much So That He Even Kept The Pope Waiting
In 2013, Pope Francis made his first visit to Russia, where he waited for nearly an hour to meet Putin. This isn’t an isolated incident. Putin has arrived hours late for meetings with John Kerry and Queen Elizabeth II, and even arrived late to the scene of a plane crash that killed children. By the time Putin arrived, the parents had waited for two hours.GREGORIO BORGIA/AFP/Getty Images
If there is any true winner of the 2016 presidential election, most signs are pointing to Vladimir Putin. Forbes has listed the President of Russia as the most influential person of the year, with Donald Trump -- Putin's latest admirer -- immediately beneath him in the number two spot.
If Trump's Rusky-loving cabinet picks and warm words for the massive country are to serve as any kind of guide, Russia will be a state whose actions Americans would be well-served to keep an eye on over the Trump presidency.
And there is perhaps no better a way to ready for that four-year watch than by learning about the man who is intent on bringing Mother Russia back to her days of glory: Vladimir Putin.